While the men's NCAA tournament will take a break from action following Sunday's slate of games, the women's NCAA bracket still has plenty of intrigue as four teams will look to punch their ticket to the Final Four in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday night.
Women's basketball powers like No. 1 seeds Connecticut and Notre Dame will take to the court in hopes of continuing undefeated seasons but will have to get through No. 3 seed Texas A&M and No. 2 seed Baylor, respectively, to continue their pursuits of perfection.
Both teams have been able to run the gauntlet to get to the Elite Eight, but can the Bears pull off an upset like the one they endured in 2013? And while UConn seems flawless yet again, the Aggies went 13-3 in the tough SEC conference and could be primed to pull off the upset.
Before the games get underway Monday night, here's a look at the full schedule for the Elite Eight and predictions for Day 1 of the next round of play:
|Women's NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Schedule (Day 1)|
|Date||Matchup||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|March 31||No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Baylor||7:30 p.m.||ESPN||Watch ESPN|
|March 31||No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 3 Texas A&M||9:30 p.m.||ESPN||Watch ESPN|
No. 1 Connecticut vs. No. 3 Texas A&M
Over the last two decades, UConn has risen to the top to seize the women's college basketball throne and hasn't relinquished it.
Under head coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies have won eight of the last 19 national championships and reached the Final Four in 13 of those seasons. Needless to say, Auriemma's program is a symbol of consistency and greatness every year.
But even against a great team like the Huskies, Aggies coach Gary Blair believes his team will be up to the task, according to Jim Fuller of the New Haven Register:
Much of UConn's success is thanks to the re-emergence of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. After suffering an elbow injury earlier this season, the junior has shined for Auriemma and has been the catalyst for the Huskies offense.
While the scoring ability has always been there for Mosqueda-Lewis, she shared her approach to improving in rebounding the ball for UConn this season, per Rich Elliott of the Connecticut Post:
I think it’s just mindset. It’s just matter of getting position. And, also, I think rebounds have a lot to do with luck a little bit sometimes. You happen to be under the basket at the time and it comes off the right way.
I was just trying to get in there as much as possible. Just trying to get us second-chance shots because I knew we really weren’t knocking down the shots that we usually did. And so just trying to be as physical as I could and Stefanie (Dolson) was bringing the big girl (Jennifer Hamson) out so it was a good opportunity for us to get rebounds on the weak side.
Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press shares just how rare it is to see the kind of greatness that Mosqueda-Lewis is showing in the paint this season:
While the Aggies have the talent on the court to get the job done against nearly any team, the sheer will and size of Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart will propel the Huskies to their seventh straight Final Four appearance.
Predicted Winner: Connecticut
No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Baylor
Much like the UConn women's basketball program, Notre Dame has made a name for itself and built a long-standing record of success.
Though her resume might not be on the same level as Auriemma's, Muffet McGraw has a national championship and multiple Final Fours to her name. The coach has put together such a spectacular season this year that she's been nominated for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award, as Debbie Antonelli of ESPN notes:
This year's team is led by a three-headed monster in Jewell Loyd, Natalie Achonwa and Kayla McBride. Loyd has paced the Irish all season with an average of 18.4 points per game and is second in rebounding with 6.3 per game.
Achonwa is third in scoring with 14.7 points per game and leads in rebounding with 7.7 per game. As for McBride, the senior guard ranks in the top three per game in both points (17.7) and rebounds (5.6) but also leads in assists with 3.9.
Along with her coach, McBride is also a candidate for a Naismith award, according to the Naismith's official account:
While the Lady Bears don't have the talents of Brittney Griner on the court anymore, senior Odyssey Sims has proven she's more than capable of carrying the team this season.
After eclipsing the 1,000-point mark with Baylor, Sims spoke about how the team has grown throughout the season, per the Associated Press (via The Dallas Morning News):
We didn't talk about it being an Elite Eight team. We definitely wanted be in the NCAA tournament and let's see how good we are in the course of the year. I watched us get better and better. I knew we'd go pretty deep in this tournament.
Unfortunately, Baylor won't have enough offensive firepower to keep up with Notre Dame and avenge last year's early departure from the tournament. McGraw will once again reach the Final Four and have a chance to contend for a second national championship with the Irish.
Predicted Winner: Notre Dame
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